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Proposed Pipeline a Positive, Says PUC

September 14, 1993|JEFF MEYERS

The beleaguered developer of a proposed oil pipeline through Ventura County received a boost Monday from the California Public Utilities Commission, but the future of the project remains cloudy, a company official said.

In certifying the final environmental impact report on the $215-million Pacific Pipeline the commission revised earlier findings and now considers the pipeline "environmentally superior" to all alternatives, said Martha Sullivan, a commission regulatory analyst.

If approved, the Pacific Pipeline would carry 130,000 barrels of heavy crude a day from the Gaviota Marine Terminal north of Santa Barbara across Ventura County to Los Angeles refineries.

In the draft version of the environmental report, the Pacific Pipeline was not considered as safe environmentally as existing pipelines. Since then, however, a crucial link in the existing pipeline network was found to be 35 years old, 10 years older than originally thought, making it more susceptible to leaks, the commission reported.

And since Point Arguello oil producers began shipping crude in tankers through the Santa Barbara Channel last month, the commission now feels the Pacific Pipeline would be safer for the environment than no pipeline at all.

Although the commission's conclusions make the Pacific Pipeline more attractive to environmentalists, the project, particularly the 53-mile section slated for Ventura County, is still on shaky ground.

Last month, major Point Arguello producers signed a contract to ship their oil through the All American Pipeline beginning in 1996, forcing the Pacific Pipeline back to the drawing board.

"We're in the regrouping stage," said Tom Rooney, Pacific Pipeline's project engineer.

The probable option for Pacific Pipeline, Rooney and others said, is to build a spur off the All American Pipeline, which doesn't go all the way to Los Angeles refineries.

Bypassing Ventura County, the spur would begin in Riverside County and go south for 100 miles into Los Angeles.

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